Return of the respite bed

District of Kent mayor lobbies for return of sole respite bed to Agassiz from Mission

Fraser Health has back-pedalled on a decision to remove the respite bed from Agassiz.

The health authority has agreed to convert a residential bed at Glenwood Care Centre back to a respite bed “in the very near future”, according to a letter from Fraser Health’s president and chief executive officer Michael Marchbank.

“This decision to convert the respite bed to a complex care bed was based on the historical underutilization of the respite bed located at Glenwood Care Centre,” wrote Marchbank. “However, I understand the importance of having a respite bed located as close as possible to the community it serves.”

Marchbank wrote that the bed was removed from Agassiz one year ago, on April 4, 2014 and placed at a “respite hotel” in Mission. Fraser Health did not provide The Observer with any statistics on respite bed usage in Agassiz or use by local residents of the Mission facility.

The letter, dated March 2, was written in response to correspondence from District of Kent Mayor John Van Laerhoven. The mayor wrote a strongly-worded letter to Marchbank in February, making clear the District’s view that it was not acceptable to remove the local respite care and provide the nearest service in Mission, approximately 65 km away.

“This news is very disappointing, as residents needing respite from loved ones for the short term are faced with a transportation barrier,” he wrote. “This decision creates more barriers to those that need this service most.”

He expressed concern that the decision was not directly shared with the municipality and was not common knowledge even among local health practitioners.

“This lack of consultation and transparency goes totally against the recent messaging from Fraser Health that they want to be more engaged with local governments to create healthy communities.”

According to Tasleem Juma, spokesperson for Fraser Health, respite beds were moved from individual communities across the Fraser Valley and centralized into regional clusters.

“The decision to consolidate respite care in geographical areas of our region was to ensure we were providing efficient and standardized care to all our clients and their families,” says Juma.

But due to the local mayor’s concern, Fraser Health decided to move the bed back to Agassiz.

“Providing quality care for individuals and their families in their own communities is very important to us,” says Juma.

In Marchbank’s letter, he forewarned that the move back to Agassiz may not be permanent.

“We will continue to monitor the utilization of this bed over the next year, and may need to re-evaluate the decision to retain the respite bed at a future time.”

Fraser Health’s home Health program offers support to caregivers, to allow a much-needed break from the emotional and physical demands that go along with home care. According to Fraser Health’s website, respite help can include providing a service in the client’s home such as home support services, or admitting clients with complex care needs to a care facility or hospice residence on as short-term basis. For questions about home health, call the Home Health Service Line at 1-855-412-2121.